George Davis might be innocent – OK, says court of appeal

Armed robbery conviction from 1974 that sparked UK-wide graffiti campaign quashed by judges

The graffiti that have been scrawled on walls across Britain for three decades were almost right.

George Davis, convicted of a robbery in 1974, may have claimed he was innocent, but the court of appeal on Tuesday more prosaically finally declared his conviction to be unsafe.

Davis was convicted of involvement in a robbery of the London Electricity Board in Ilford, east London, and the campaign maintaining his innocence won the backing of pop stars including the Who lead singer Roger Daltry, and even stopped the 1975 Ashes test when supporters vandalised the pitch.

The damage to the Headingley cricket pitch, which forced the abandonment of the England v Australia match, propelled the campaign into international prominence, and in 1976 Davis was released from prison under royal prerogative from a 20-year sentence for robbery and wounding with intent to resist arrest.

In September 1977, Davis let his supporters down when he was caught red-handed robbing a branch of the Bank of Cyprus in Holloway, north London. He pleaded guilty to his involvement in an armed robbery and was sentenced to 15 years, reduced to 11 on appeal.

If he was unlucky in his ability to plan and execute an armed robbery, he was much luckier in his choice of friends and the support he got from his late wife, Rose. Despite his 1977 crime, they never let up in their campaign to see Davis’s name cleared of the 1974 robbery.

The campaigners daubed slogans on walls across London, reading “George Davis Is Innocent OK”.

On Tuesday, more than 35 years on, the conviction was quashed by the court of appeal.

But Davis, now aged 69, did not hear the court declare his innocence, with the judges saying too much time had passed for them to reach a decision on that.

Davis was originally convicted on identification evidence, which he disputed. He also claimed evidence that exonerated him was kept from his defence.

Lord Justice Hughes said material relating to identifications made by those at the scene of the robbery, and “limited new evidence” affecting the “very positive identification” given by another witness, “so far undermines the case that it is impossible to be satisfied that this conviction is safe”.

But he added: “We do not know whether Davis was guilty or not, but his conviction cannot be said to be safe.”

The judge added that Davis’s subsequent conviction did not affect the court of appeal’s judgment: “As we have made clear, the fact that he was an active and known criminal does not affect this question, nor does it make it any the less important that his conviction should not be upheld unless it is clear that it is safe.”

Following the decision, Davis said: “I have been protesting my innocence since 1974 and have always claimed I was falsely identified. But it should not have taken 36 long years.

“I have no intention of seeking compensation for my wrongful conviction.

“I have pursued this appeal for all these years because I wanted all those people who worked for, and helped, the campaign in the 1970s to know that their support was justified.”

Davis’s solicitor, Bernard Carnell, said: “The court of appeal heard that senior officers withheld from the jury material they considered undermined their case. Police officers, the Home Office and the office of the director of public prosecutions kept secret evidence provided to them after the trial which undermined the safety of Mr Davis’s conviction.”

The case was referred back to the court of appeal by the criminal cases review commission.

 Source: Guardian

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